Koji Suzuki (novel) and Hiroshi Takahashi (screenplay)
Nanako Matsushima as Reiko Asakawa
Hiroyuki Sanada as Ryugi Takayama
Inou Rie as Sadako
Rikiya Otaka as Yoichi Asakawa
By The Zombie Master, Lee Roberts
Being an early fan of films such as Jigoku and Kwaidan, I was no stranger to what is now called the J-horror genre. What Ringu did that the earlier films of the genre had failed to do was to successfully introduce the legend of the “onryo” to the rest of the world.
The “onryo” is a member of the “yurei” family. “Yurei” are Japanese ghosts that are bound on earth by emotions. The type of emotion that binds them dictates the type of“yurei” that they become. The “onryo” is a“yurei” that is bound by the emotion of vengeance and they are just as prevalent in Japanese folklore as vampires and werewolves are in Western cultures.
Ringu starts by showing us two teenage girls that are talking about a video tape that one of them saw. It is said that anyone who sees the tape will die seven days later. Today happens to be the seventh day since the viewing of the tape by four teenagers. The next morning all four, including one of the teenage girls, are found dead.
Reiko (Nanako Matsushima), a reporter, discovers that her niece was one of the dead and goes into investigation mode seeking out the truth behind the supposed cursed video. On a trip to the cabin where the four teenagers watched the tape, Reiko finds it and watches it herself. After the tape is over, the phone rings and Reiko’s seven days has begun.
Ringu is a perfect cinematic example of how all of the important work that is NOT done by the actors can truly make a film work or not. Think of the concept first; you have a cursed video tape that when watched you will receive a mysterious phone call and then you have seven days to live. Oh yeah, there are just tons of ways to make that work as a viable screenplay. But wait, once you have the screenplay you still only have the same concept with characters in a storyline. Not too scary on paper huh? Now introduce a visionary director named Hideo Nakata, music scored by 20 year veteran Kenji Kawai and masterful editing by Nobuyuki Takahasi and you have now taken a mediocre plot hook and turned it into the highest grossing film in Japanese history and one of the most frightening horror films in Japan. You also have the catalyst for an abundance of American remakes of Japanese “onryo” films.
I agree with my fellow reviewer Crypticpsych that the American remake, The Ring starring Naomi Watts, was superbly done and is a great example of what Hollywood does right. Sadly though, Hollywood doesn’t do too much right that they don’t screw up rather quickly. If you have only seen The Grudge, watch Ju-on. If you have only seen Pulse, watch Kairo. If you have only seen One Missed Call, I am very sorry and suggest that you watch Chakushin Ari (by the great Miike). These suggestions will get you on the correct path of some great J-horror flicks that were either directly or indirectly influenced by Ringu.